“At the end of Keating’s prime-ministership, he was talking about embracing complexity and multiculturalism, and the difficulties there. Howard’s masterstroke was to come in and say: “I want Australians to be comfortable about their past, their present and their future.” Which is to say, “we’re not going to talk about this anymore.” And I feel like, since that period, we have not had a robust national conversation. Where is the cultural discourse about any of this stuff? We’ve had the apology, great; but that is not the end. Kevin Rudd’s apology should have been the beginning of this, kind of, great evolution in the way Australians see themselves. But I think that’s failed.”
– Mark Wilson
“I would characterise the Australian experience as, unfortunately, having to reflect a majority, and a popular view – more than art is required to in other cultures.”
– Marcel Dorney
In episode four of Audio Stage, our studio is full. We have gathered some of our favourite people, to talk about what it means to work in contemporary Australian theatre, and operate without history. Fleur is away for a wedding (luckily, not hers!), but the magic of technology, and Kieran’s amazing production skills, keep her present. Meanwhile, Jana is joined in the studio by: Marcel Dorney, Artistic Director of Melbourne independent theatre collective Elbow Room Productions; John Kachoyan, Co-Artistic Director of MKA: Theatre of New Writing; and Mark Wilson, independent theatre-maker and dramaturg.
“[The ruthlessly contemporary adaptations of classics] reflects – in a strange way – a kind of fantasy that white Australians have about themselves: that we can be the subject of great drama without coming to terms with our history.”
– Marcel Dorney
Discussed in this episode:
the first European play ever performed in Australia, Oriel Gray’s The Torrents, the ‘state of the nation’ play, John Howard and Paul Keating, the curse of the binaries of ‘Australian’ and ‘unAustralian’, watching theatre for information, Barrie Kosky and all our greatest theatre exports, being allowed to fail, generational warfare, Sisters Grimm and Declan Greene, killing art with egalitarianism, Lally Katz, and the theatre-enhancing properties of cheap airfares.
“I find it interesting that we know more about a theatre culture that is so different and so vast, and so removed, than we do about 10 years ago. [It creates] people that think they’ve invented the wheel. Every 10 years a generation stands up on stage and applauds itself for inventing, I don’t know, postdramatic theatre, or moving away from the text, or rediscovering the text.”
– John Kachoyan
Enjoy and stay tuned: we have more exciting and intellectually rigorous conversations to come.
Julian Meyrick: Trapped by the Past, Why Our Theatre is Facing Paralysis (Platform Papers, Quarterly essays on the performing atrs, No 3, January 2005)
Photo credits: Sarah Walker (Wilson), Ponch Hawkes (Dorney).